By Madhusree Chatterjee
Book: "The Liberals", Author: Hindol Sengupta; Publisher: Harper Collins India; Pages: 309; Price: Rs.350
The middle class will decide the course of liberalisation in India which will become more micro-level in search of solutions to problems, says writer and journalist Hindol Sengupta in his new book, "The Liberals".
"It is imperative for us to focus on local problems in the next phase of liberalisation. The idea of liberalisation is a dystopian utopia. It is like what Kipling had said about the east - it is true yet untrue. We might be conservative in public life, yet at the core, our deepest desires are all liberal," Sengupta told IANS.
Sengupta's book takes a look at the 20-year journey of India's liberalisation through stories of the common man - and the everyday aspirations of the country's growing middle class with their dilemmas and new adaptability to cope with the bottom-up dynamics of empowerment and wants of the grassroots.
Middle class is like the modern Indian woman, who is now the greatest enemy because after thousands of years of suppressed patriarchy, tools of education have given her an identity, the writer says.
"The Indian middle class, the beneficiary of liberalisation, is now facing a backlash from people who have benefited less. The modern Indian middle class has to battle with the idea of that strata of society (lower than us) getting re-imagined," Sengupta says.
The middle class has to realise that "unless it can extract equitable social distribution from the upper class, we will not be bale to hold the lower strata below us," he says.
"It is a very scary situation for India," Sengupta says, predicting a future of "multiple wars on all fronts and the challenge to balance rising aspirations against dwindling resources".
The book moves between three cities - Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata, where the writer has spent his life.
A couple of chapters on Pakistan at the end gives an outsider's view of the country, making a comparative note with India's liberalisation.
The book often comes across as chatty, skimming the surface in its rush to negotiate through all the realities that the writer has encountered in 31 years of life. But the observations are sharply defined - the language easy and almost familiar in their references to the immediate surroundings.
The absence of intellectual debates based on the realities to arrive at profound perceptions makes the volume more of a young liberal's engaging travelogue through a changing India.
(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)